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Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad extends Santa Express season, new train debuts

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In mid-October, I took my first trip aboard the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. It was the debut of a special Wine Express Train, and I enjoyed the scenic ride through the Nisqually River Valley. Most of my train travel is aboard Amtrak, whether going north to Vancouver, BC; south to Portland, OR or east to Whitefish, Montana. Several years ago, I crossed Canada on a ten-day trip with VIA Rail Canada, traveling from Halifax, Nova Scotia west to Vancouver, BC. I do love trains!

Kids love trains, too -- and during the month of December, the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad has a special Santa Express for kids of all ages. This year it runs weekends through December 23. The steam-powered train travels between Elbe and Mineral, a 90-minute to 2-hour round-trip experience (time varies, depending on wayward tree branches or deer/elk on the tracks).

This year the newly rebuilt Hammond Lumber Co #17 is on the route (click on to see a video). The 80-ton Mikado type rod locomotive was recently restored, and the vintage steam train passed its federal regulatory tests to make its first departure out of Elbe just prior to the Santa Express season. The restoration took nearly three years to complete, with work done by staff and volunteers.

While aboard the Santa Express, all decked out in holiday attire, passengers will steam through the Nisqually River Valley, traveling through the forest and foothills of Mt. Rainier. Santa Claus will be on board for personal visits, and hot cocoa will be served. These trains sell out quickly, so advance reservations are encouraged. Tickets range from $22-$27 (children two and under ride free). Book online or call 888.STEAM11 (360.492.5588).

The Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad (MRSR) is a steam-powered heritage railroad that operates between the towns of Elbe and Mineral, Washington. It's the longest continuously operating steam train railroad in the Pacific Northwest. MRSR offers scheduled departures weekly June-October and during the month of December.

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